Rebuilding the jails: Who’s going to pay for it?

Target 3

URBANA, Ill. (WCIA)– $20 million remained up for debate at a Champaign County Jail Facilities Committee meeting Wednesday night.

That’s become the agreed-upon bare minimum cost to move those housed at the county’s downtown jail into a larger, re-vamped satellite jail.

Prior to Wednesday’s meeting, the sole proposal has been to spend $20 million in American Rescue Plan (ARPA) money on it, about half of the county’s allotted ARPA money. We’re told that’s a rather unpopular idea among county residents.

Bonds from public safety sales tax revenue are another option, according to Champaign County Director of Finance Tami Ogden on Wednesday. However, if all $20 million comes that, Ogden said little to no funding will be left for other public safety needs in the county, something she said there is a lot of.

The funding options according to Tami Ogden, the Champaign County Director of Finance. She said in presenting these options, it doesn’t mean she or other county administration recommends them.

The committee looked at five options using bond money, some breaking up the cost between those local bonds and the federal funding ARPA money.

Meanwhile, about 70 people housed downtown are in the process of being moved to other county jails. Champaign County Sheriff Dustin Heuerman cited safety reasons months ago when that was approved. Wednesday, Jail Superintendent Captain Karee Voges said the roadblocks with transport have grown.

“We don’t have the staffing to staff the jail, let alone staff it to transport so right now, every time we have additional people out of the county, they may have to be transported back for court. So we’re spending more money on gas to transport them back and forth,” Voges explained.

She said public defenders have also had trouble getting to their clients who are spread out from DeWitt to Kankakee Counties.

Champaign County Facilities Director Dana Brenner said once the Jail Facilities Committee makes a decision about the money, an aggressive planning and construction schedule will begin. If a decision is made by the end of this year, as planned, construction would begin in early 2023.

But, there’s more to consider. The demolition of the downtown jail was estimated to cost around another $800,000. That also means moving the Champaign County Sheriff’s Office, something that is getting funding consideration right now as well. Wednesday, Sheriff Heuerman said moving inmates and staff out of the downtown jail for good remains the priority.

The next meeting of the Jail Facilities Committee is set for November 3.

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